Until I retired in 2013 I had lost interest in my garden. The love of gardening that was there 30 years ago vanished amid the stress of work. Now, I’m back in full flow and loving the time I get to spend a few hours pottering. Some days I’ve got a plan in my head but most days it’s a case of seamlessly moving on to what I notice needs doing. Of course, there’s also a helluva lot more time to relax, have a coffee or take a nap.
In all this, my good (best) wife Marion leaves me to my own devices. She sees the satisfaction it brings me and likes what she sees. She did have two long-term requests: a water fountain and a Budda. So, in line with my Happy Wife Policy (Rule 1.1.2b), we added both during Covid-19 lockdown. We are happy together.
The patio pots brightened my heart all summer. I loved making almost weekly changes, adding pots here and there and moving things around just for fun. I also moved pots away when flowering was finished. The exception to this were the spent lilies, because the upright stems added height. Yesterday I started the transition to Autumn. Many pots were taken out and nearly everything that was left was rearranged. Many more were added in order to get a good sense of Autumn close to the house. It’s not quite finished yet, but I’m very happy with how it’s shaping up. Now that I see that in writing, it’s never actually finishes because as the autumn/winter progresses changes and additions will be made.
I highly recommend this form of musical-chairs gardening. It is time-consuming in the height of summer as constant watering is needed. Also worth considering is keeping the smaller pots on the most shaded side. I’m lucky that the garden is south-facing and so the smaller stuff is facing me and also helps to graduate the entire structure gently. By the way, the Fairy Door is still there! It has moved once more. They’ve been so careful to stay out of sight that I doubt you’ll see it.
Many plants that I had purchased during the summer when garden centres reopened after lockdown had been minded in their pots in the Holding Area, and several are suitable for this Autumn patio project. Likely, some of these will be permanently planted in the ground at some stage. But now it’s time for to relax.
It’s October already. Seize the moment, my friends. Yesterday I figured out that because of all the seed packets I ordered, I’d need more shelving. Without further ado I ordered blocks and timber, and both were delivered a few hours later.
The tomatoes are still producing, so I needed to build around them, and I’m almost finished. There’s another shelf to be constructed tomorrow. Seven tomatoes needed to be eaten during the construction process. All the seeds to be grown here between now and spring will be very cozy!
I’m participating in an Instagram challenge called My Garden This Month. The idea is to post something each day according to a given prompt. The link is here. If you’re an IG user, do consider joining in using the hashtag #mygardenthismonth
Storm Alex is arriving from France over the weekend. I am reminded of my reaction in October 2018. The scouts taught me to “Bí Ullamh”. In the case of this one, it may not be severe as Met Éireann have issued no weather warnings. That could change.
Step 1: Cut and trim the lower leaves and remove the growing tip. Dip each cutting in rooting powder and shake off any excess.
Step 2: Fill containers with a mixture of peat and sand. Water well and leave for a few hours to drain. Use a pencil to make three holes and place one cutting in each. I had nine cuttings, and put three in each pot. I always liked maths. From these nine, I expect to get four or five new plants. Place the pots in a cold frame or a sheltered spot. I do not have a cold frame (yet) so I will go for plan B, and I’ll check them in about six weeks. I will pull very gently and if they have rooted I will know immediately. Its exciting.
The logical deduction is that I can now buy more plants and still save money.
Note: Storm Francis arrived last night. Plenty rain and some wind, but nothing as severe as Ellen last week. Today is a bright and fresh, ideal for gardening.
I have started into my sixty-third orbit of the sun, and to mark the occasion I include here excerpts from my Instagram write-about-my-garden every day challenge. Each day’s entry is written to a given theme. Luckily, there was plenty of cake to inspire me. Here’s my garden week:
Monday: Birthday Blooms
It’s my breithlá and I relaxed in the garden on Monday morning. The beautiful blooms, assembled using YouCollage, are… Lily Trumpeter, Rosa Just Joey, Cornflower, Geranium Johnson Blue, Strawberry Red, Begonia, and mixed grasses. Although last one is technically not a beautiful bloomer, I’m taking liberty of adding it, coz it’s my birthday.
Tuesday: Three Little Things
I’ve completed a separate article because I had wine. It’s a bit long, and it’s “deadly”. You don’t know what deadly really means? Have a read and pay particular attention to the comments!
Wednesday : The Scent of Summer
I’m half way through the month and actually enjoying this challenge to write something about my garden (mostly my garden) every day. My good friend Tricia shares a birthday with me, and we celebrated it for a few hours together with her lovely children on Monday, and I was given a brand new mug to start off my 63rd year. Today, as I sit at the breakfast corner, with my toast, double-yolk egg and coffee, I get the scent of Lily Trumpeter from a distance of ten metres. The coffee smells good too.
I’m the gardener and OH is the crafter. Therefore, there is a craft room and a garden operating side by side, in aice a gcéile. It’s a mismatch, but one that actually helps us be together. A mismatch made in heaven? I wouldn’t go that far, but we have toiled here for thirty-two sun orbits. Neither puts in on the other, despite varying interests.
7pm update: The seagulls are circling as the flying ants leave their nests to find a new home. It’s a feeding frenzy, but I suspect that enough of the little girls will survive. Surely, they know that they’ve been through a battlezone, and will settle into their new homes, grateful that the natural urge to run the gauntlet has been successful. On the other hand, surely the seagulls are taking it easy now that they’ve had a feed of protein other than fish. Bit like Christmas Day for them.
Friday – To Shop Or Not To Shop
If it’s a choice between the two, I now choose NOT TO SHOP. My garden is in good shape, probably the best it’s been for quite a long while. Also, given everything that has happened this year, many folk have come to the conclusion that we can live gratefully without spending.
Most summers I draw a line somewhere in June. After that, the garden is there to enjoy & relax in. The summer annuals are in. The bulk of the work is done and only small maintenance jobs are on the agenda, such as watering and some weeding. No further purchases are needed until tree & shrub planting in November. That’s also the beginning of seed catalogue browsing, which will lead to shopping. There’s a commonly used phrase “Shop till you drop” and I now amend it to “Drop the Shopping”.
I have watched the long buds form slowly, and I’ve waited and waited for the first one to open. The Gaway Lily made me wait until yesterday.
We bought three lily bulbs two years ago and now there are four. Last year they were disappointing. This year they are amazing! The tallest is 2m20cm, followed closely by two more, but the baby one snapped when it was just 50cm. I’m not sure was it the wind or did something eat straight through it. I think it was something. They were bought in Clonmel Garden Centre but the maroon is definitely a Galway colour!
They are not staked, but are supported somewhat by being planted deep within a large pot. Since early April they have shot skywards on a perfectly vertical plane. Then, because of a nearby overhanging apple tree (Apple Tree Duff) the stems arched gently away as soon as the tree came into leaf. Nature is amazing. Come to think of it, if I were a Galway Lily I’d probably do the same.
I have watched the long buds form slowly, and I’ve waited and waited for the first one to open. The Gaway Lily made me wait until yesterday and the others will likely follow very soon. I will go back over my hand-written notes to find the variety name, and in the meantime I’ll enjoy these beautiful flowers. I’ll enjoy the scent, the colour and the slow pace of maturity on show today and over the next few weeks.
* Any further information or special tips from other Lily lovers would be very much appreciated.
I include here a famous Galway folk ballad written in 1979, remembering the savagery of The Famine in 1847. In recent years it has been adopted by many as a symbol of Irishness, a symbol of struggle against oppression. For anyone interested in the history of England in Ireland, the Wikipedia article about this ballad is very interesting.
Fields of Athenry
By the lonely prison wall I heard a young girl calling Michael, they are taking you away For you stole Trevelyn’s corn So the young might see the morn Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay.
Chorus Low lie the fields of Athenry Where once we watched the small free birds fly Our love was on the wing We had dreams and songs to sing It’s so lonely ’round the fields of Athenry.
By a lonely prison wall I heard a young man calling Nothing matters Mary when you’re free Against the famine and the crown I rebelled, they ran me down Now you must raise our child with dignity.
By a lonely harbour wall She watched the last star falling As the prison ship sailed out against the sky She’ll wait and hope and pray For her love in Botany Bay It’s so lonely round the fields of Athenry.
Who would have thought that using this vibrant red pot would be a bad idea? Most of my pots are plastic with a few expensive terracotta in the mix, and all have proper drainage. I discovered the vibrant red while doing the twice-yearly shed cleanup. It looked good and I figured it would be a good candidate for the front of Geranium Corner. It was a good idea back in mid-June when there was a drought, because there was no drainage hole. I ndáiríre, there still is none. Unfortunately, when the wheelbarrow-load of rain dropped, I was so taken by how lush everything in the garden looked that I forgot to empty it. Today there’s several inches of water in it, and it is likely the pelargonium is suffering and the leaves are showing the effects of prolonged water logging. But this is a hardy specimen and will recover. I call this a geranium. I’m told that pelargonium is more correct. What do you call yours?
On a more philosophical note, I am reminded that my ENTIRE garden is a container, a very large 10×30 metre container. I have placed all my plants in this container over the past thirty years, and the heavens take care of the watering almost entirely. I am so grateful that the garden is naturally well watered.
The resident fairies seem to shy away from vibrant red, so I will leave the pot in place in recognition of Liverpool’s Premier League triumph after many years of adversity.
The fairy door has moved AGAIN. It had been behind the Alchemilla for the last few weeks, but the little devils relocated overnight.
There was a time when happiness was a cigar called Hamlet, until TV tobacco advertising was banned. How times have changed! In my case, I did enjoy a cigar every once in a while and yes, it was a Hamlet. Nowadays, other things do the trick very nicely. I could write a book about the little things in my garden that help the happiness bug, and if I were to pick just one it would be my daily five-minute pre-breakfast garden inspection. I’ve written about it just this week.
So what caught my eye today? I made a shocking discovery! The fairy door has moved AGAIN. It had been behind the Alchemilla for the last few weeks, but the little devils relocated overnight. Worryingly, they are nearer the house behind a large stone. I dare not get too close, and they will wreak havoc if I tread on their invisible meandering pathways. My boiled egg will be rotten, my bike punctured or the bindweed will return.
Unrelated to the Irish wee folk, I came upon this from Marcel Proust:
Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
I have enough people in my life who make me happy, and I am grateful every day.
Finally, I return to the fairies and include here one of my brother’s favourite school poems by William Allingham. I have omitted the two verses not traditionally known as they are a bit offside.
Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, We daren’t go a-hunting For fear of little men; Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; Green jacket, red cap, And white owl’s feather!
Down along the rocky shore Some make their home, They live on crispy pancakes Of yellow tide-foam; Some in the reeds Of the black mountain-lake, With frogs for their watchdogs, All night awake.
By the craggy hillside, Through the mosses bare, They have planted thorn trees For my pleasure, here and there. Is any man so daring As dig them up in spite, He shall find their sharpest thorns In his bed at night.
Up the airy mountain, Down the rushy glen, We daren’t go a-hunting For fear of little men; Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; Green jacket, red cap, And white owl’s feather.